Belfast Telegraph

Colourful history of old Lisburn captured by city's adopted son

By David Young

The charm of old Lisburn is at the heart of an evocative exhibition of paintings by distinguished artist Dennis H Osborne, which has opened in the city's museum.

Curator Brian Mackey said: "This is the first major exhibition featuring work from Osborne's 70-year career, bringing together over 30 paintings."

Osborne, who died in 2016, was born in Portsmouth, England, and served in the Second World War.

Rescued from Dunkirk in 1940, he later fought in North Africa, where he was taken prisoner.

After escaping an Italian prisoner of war camp he spent six months on the run in the Dolomites before his eventual recapture and another spell of imprisonment in a German Stalag in Poland.

While incarcerated he spent his free time sketching.

After the war Osborne pursued his passion for art, studying in London, and exhibiting his work at the prestigious Royal Academy.

The painter settled in Northern Ireland in 1959, working initially at Portadown Technical College, and later moving to Lisburn in 1962, where he took up the post of head of art at Lisnagarvey High School.

It was from the mid-1960s onwards that he captured his images of the town, particularly parts of its linen heritage - the old back streets and rickety weavers' cottages around Coulson's thatched weaving factory, which produced linen for Queen Victoria.

Osborne is considered one of the most important, yet least known, artists to have painted in Northern Ireland.

An Academician of the Royal Ulster Academy, more than 30 of his works are on display in the Lisburn showcase.

"Many of these are in his distinctive 'Euston Road'-influenced style of realism and naturalism, and painted with great care and craftmanship," added Mr Mackey.

"Prominent in the exhibition are Osborne's iconic views of historic Lisburn, painted in the Sixties and Seventies, and now lost to urban redevelopment."

At the exhibition's opening in the city yesterday mayor Brian Bloomfield remarked that in his view: "Lisburn was not only fortunate, but blessed, that an artist of Dennis Osborne's calibre choose to settle here and found so much inspiration in our old town to paint."

Following his retirement in 1983, Osborne lived and painted in Newtownards. He died in May 2016. The exhibition runs until April 29.

Admission is free. Full details can be found at lisburnmuseum.com/Osborne

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